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Community members benefit from a free primary
healthcare service in the rural district of iLembe.

Students from UKZN’s School of Health Sciences together with various governmental and non-governmental organizations recently offered a free primary healthcare service to children living with disabilities in the rural district of iLembe. The intervention programme was held at the Ntathakusa Primary School in Ndwedwe and was the first of its kind.

The partnership was formed when Tongaat Hulett approached the health sciences disciplines at UKZN, on behalf of desperate parents and caregivers of children with disabilities, who form part of the local sugarcane farming community.

Ms Nkonzo Mhlongo, Socio-Economic Development Manager for Tongaat Hulett, said the provincial Departments of Health (DoH) and Social Development also partnered in this initiative along with the local King Shaka non-governmental organization for people with disabilities.

Final-year students from the disciplines of Audiology, Dentistry, Occupational Therapy and Speech Language Pathology joined nurses from the local clinic and healthcare professionals from Stanger Hospital in the provision of a variety of primary health screening services.

Mhlongo said the intervention was targeted at assessing children with disabilities in the community. The results would be evaluated and this would lead to programmes designed to assist parents, caregivers and educators in the community to address the children’s specific needs. 

Dr Penelope Flack, academic leader for the discipline of Speech-Language Therapy at UKZN said the University would continue to play its part in developing educational programmes for parents and educators to better understand how to manage children living with disabilities.

Flack said iLembe had a strong community structure and in line with the DoH re-engineering of primary healthcare, such interventions were critical.

Mrs Nobuhle Nzimande, HOD of the hosting school, said such an intervention was very necessary as parents are not knowledgeable and feel helpless in raising children with disabilities.

Audiology students, Ms Nadhira Ramnat and Ms Fathima Suleman, said they both had family members who were deaf, and screening for hearing loss on the day was an uplifting experience.